Recently I had a conversation with a man who is a “pastor” out in West Virginia, and was so shocked by some of the things he said, I was actually wondering how all the members of his church hadn’t risen up against him with rotten tomatoes and old juice boxes. The truth is though, that many times, I think we rush into a major decision like joining a church and become so close to our pastor or his family that we may not realize that they either aren’t doing right OR that they were at one time but have now gone a different direction. I think sometimes we begin to focus on the person and forget the position, therefore I thought now would be a great time to share with you some things I value and think are very important qualities in a pastor.
1. What he preaches:
This may seem obvious but it’s critical! Does he preach from the Bible? I can not tell you how many times I have attended a church where the pastor gets up and gives a long dissertation and never even opens the Bible. I am not sitting in church to hear your opinions, but rather what GOD’S COMMANDS are. I love it when my pastor or visiting pastors have us flipping through our Bibles through the entire service. I want to know that they can back up what they say with the Bible! If you can’t give me chapter and verse, don’t bother.
2. What are his standards?
This is a hard one for a lot of people. Let’s face it: no one wants to hear how horrible they are, they want to hear that they are awesome and doing everything right. That is NOT the purpose in going to church. For plants to grow properly, they must be pruned, same goes for people. There is ALWAYS room for improvement, but if your pastor has lower standards than you do, he definitely won’t be able to help you grow and raise your standards.
3. What is his testimony?
The world wide web is AWESOME. Have you ever googled your name just to see what comes up? Try it for your pastor! Are there inappropriate pictures of him? Forums where he’s caused trouble? A series of complaints from former members of his church? If so this is a BAD SIGN. I recently put this to the test. I googled the pastor I mentioned above, only to find that on the first page there were several links with negative responses, and an entire thread in a forum discussing his poor behavior…YIKES! When I googled my own pastor’s name…I found blog posts he had written (mostly about dressing for church, being a good Christian, how to support your pastor etc.), I found church times, and his twitter account name. Your pastor’s testimony isn’t in what HE tells you necessarily but in the way he conducts himself even when he thinks he won’t be “found out”.
4. How available is he?
I remember coming home after having met our pastor for the first time. My husband was very excited, he loved the church, loved the pastor, loved his family etc. I honestly couldn’t even remember what the pastor looked like by the time we got home, I had spent so much time focusing on what he was saying during the sermon I couldn’t remember anything about HIM as a person. My husband said “well if you want to get to know him here’s his phone number!” he then presented me with a business card, which had the pastor’s personal cell phone number on it, the church number etc. I was pleasantly surprised. Now in a mega church, you may as well give it up, there’s no way the pastor can be THAT available to all his members and visitors, but in a smaller church your pastor should be available. THIS ALSO DEPENDS UPON YOU AS A MEMBER. The benefit my church has is that our pastor doesn’t have to hold another job as the church pays him a salary. In my opinion that’s something that every church should aspire to (so pay our tithes!). I can’t even IMAGINE how that is for the pastor and his family, being on call 24/7….a “regular job” might actually be easier :). However, if you can only interact with your pastor on weddings, funerals and service days..who will you turn to when your marriage is in crisis, your spouse is hospitalized, or you have a theological question? Another plus is if he’s available in other ways. Both my pastor and his wife are on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. While I wouldn’t say I REQUIRE this in a pastor, it’s a plus! It’s an easy way to get to know them on a social level. I watch the things my pastor’s wife posts on Pintrest to see what she finds interesting, I’m able to find out what’s going on in her life that she’d like to share that day, and read funny stories about the kids. I also get to see what’s on my pastor’s heart that day, and read about the many many many sports he’s interested in. 🙂 Sometimes it’s a helpful reminder that they are human too with real lives, and worries just like us! It also gives us insight into how they deal with those things which is just as important.
5. What is his family like?
The Bible states that the pastor should have his household in order. Now in my opinion everyone with toddlers gets a “pass”. I have two of my own and believe me, I don’t care if you are a pastor, the president, or Queen of England your toddler is going to throw a fit SOMEWHERE or embarrass you SOMEHOW….that’s just the nature of children that age. But does his wife come to church dressed appropriately? Do the older children behave fairly well? How involved is his family in the church? Are they just another member or are they really getting in there and working? It took me a while to get to know my pastor’s wife because she’s a BUSY woman. She is so kind, and honest and very fun yet VERY BUSY. She works in the nursery, works with the children’s Christmas play, does ladies meetings, they even became foster parents, so their household has increased in size, she babysits, she does Sunday school. Basically she does way more than I’m even willing to THINK about doing, yet somehow in all of this I did get to know her AND she offered to do more like watch my children! All of their children are pretty well behaved (they are still kids, so they aren’t perfect but they are very well mannered). This is a GOOD SIGN!
6. Would you trust him with your children?
When I first had my children I wouldn’t trust ANYONE with them. No one other than family members were allowed to hold them until they reached about 6 months of age. At one point, my husband and I talked to the pastor, we had a laundry list of complaints about each other. The pastor said “i think you guys are just tired, my wife and I would be happy to watch your children whenever you are ready to let someone do that”. It was something I honestly hadn’t considered, but now, if I were to ever change churches, it would be on my list WOULD I TRUST THESE PEOPLE WITH MY CHILDREN? You never know what kind of position you are going to be in. My family lives pretty far away, and my mother-in-law goes out of town frequently. A few years ago my husband got stung by a bee and was hospitalized (he is VERY allergic). Now, every year around “bee season” I follow him around like a hawk, yelling for him to go inside the second I see a bee, wasp, angry moth…I don’t care….DON’T GET STUNG! He feels like I overreact, but one day I said to him “what will I do if you get stung while your mom is out of town? I will have no one to watch the kids while I sit beside you in the hospital.” His answer? “You would call pastor and Sister Dawn (his wife) and ask them to take care of the kids for a while”. The answer came easy BECAUSE they are exactly the kind of people you can trust with your children; and if you are willing to trust them with your child’s life odds are you can trust them with your own, which is a good thing because your pastor should be worried not only for your life but for your SOUL.
7. Is he open to questions?
Your pastor should not only be preaching from the Bible but encouraging you to read it yourself and ask him questions. If there’s something you don’t understand, or something in a sermon that you didn’t catch or even if you believe he may have said something wrong…is he willing to answer questions or does he want you to just listen to what he says and that be that? There’s nothing more annoying to me than someone who doesn’t want to be questioned, that is a sign that they are a bit insecure.
Those are just a few of the things I think are important in a pastor and his family. I am grateful to have that at my current church. I will say though that NUMBER ONE, is WHAT DOES HE PREACH? If he’s not preaching from the word of God then all of the other things don’t matter. It saddens me that so many people miss out on the truth because they are focused on the man. Just because he’s nice doesn’t mean he’s right. If you have a good pastor and pastor’s family praise God for them and pray for them often. If they have children pray for them too. Thank you Pastor and Sister Dawn for all you’ve done for our family!
Feel free to add your own points if you are a pastor, pastor’s wife or even a church member. I’m sure there are many I have missed!